September Roundtable: Agile vs. Lean

Is Agile the new Lean?

Over the past few years, Agile has gained popularity. This methodology emerged as a solution to manage projects with a number of unknown elements and to counter the typical waterfall method. Quality practitioners have observed the numerous similarities between this new framework and Lean. Some have speculated that Agile is simply the next generation’s version of Lean. These observations have posed the question:

Is Agile the new Lean?

Members of ASQ Influential Voices shared their thoughts:

Sara Haynes:

I’ve worked with both Agile and Lean in my career. To me, asking if Agile is the new Lean is a little like asking if carpentry is the new plumbing. They are different trades, used for different purposes. Agile is a methodology of designing and developing products, and Lean is a methodology for streamlining operations. I worked at a company that transitioned from a traditional waterfall approach for design requirements, to an Agile method. What struck me most was the dramatic increase in the sense of urgency. It’s hard to get excited about a deadline that is 8 months away – 8 days feels much more real.

Lean is an approach to operations that focusses on flow. Identifying and eliminating barriers that stop flow, and implementing quick and easy solutions now vs. expensive and capital-intensive solutions. With software development, where Agile is most commonly applied, the hardest part is making the first release. Once you have the final release, it’s simply a matter of copying. Whereas with hardware development, the hardest part is not making the first prototype, it’s getting to mass production: being able to produce your design consistently, efficiently and cost-effectively. These are very different challenges that require different solutions. Agile, vs. Lean.

Read her blog.

John Hunter: 

No, Agile is not the new Lean.

There are many useful concepts, tools and practices within what people refer to as agile software development. And the same can be said for lean. But they are distinct approaches (the links in this post flush out this idea more for those interested in learning more on that topic). That isn’t to say an organization cannot design their own solution that adopts ideas found in each approach. In fact doing so for software development makes sense in my opinion.

If you decide to transform your management system using lean management practices as a focus I think you can do great things. I would delve deeply into lean and also learn about Deming and agile software development. And if you decide to create an agile styled management system then do that and learn from Deming and lean as you continually improve. In either case continually iterate and improve they management practices that are used.

Read the full article on his blog.

Nicole Radziwill:

The short answer to this question is: NO.

The longer answer is one I’m going to have to hold back some emotions to answer. Why? I have two reasons.

Reason #1: There is No Magic Bullet
First, many managers are on a quest for the silver bullet — a methodology or a tool that they can implement on Monday, and reap benefits no later than Friday. Neither lean nor agile can make this happen. But it’s not uncommon to see organizations try this approach. A workgroup will set up a Kanban board or start doing daily stand-up meetings, and then talk about how they’re “doing agile.” Now that agile is in place, these teams have no reason to go any further.

Reason #2: There is Nothing New Under the Sun
Neither approach is “new” and neither is going away. Lean principles have been around since Toyota pioneered its production system in the 1960s and 1970s. The methods prioritized value and flow, with attention to reducing all types of waste everywhere in the organization. Agile emerged in the 1990s for software development, as a response to waterfall methods that couldn’t respond effectively to changes in customer requirements.
Agile modeling uses some lean principles: for example, why spend hours documenting flow charts in Visio, when you can just write one on a whiteboard, take a photo, and paste it into your documentation? Agile doesn’t have to be perfectly lean, though. It’s acceptable to introduce elements that might seem like waste into processes, as long as you maintain your ability to quickly respond to new information and changes required by customers. (For example, maybe you need to touch base with your customers several times a week. This extra time and effort is OK in agile if it helps you achieve your customer-facing goals.)Both lean and agile are practices. They require discipline, time, and monitoring. Teams must continually hone their practice, and learn about each other as they learn together. There are no magic bullets.

Information plays a key role. Effective flow of information from strategy to action is important for lean because confusion (or incomplete communication) and forms of waste. Agile also emphasizes high-value information flows, but for slightly different purposes — that include promoting:
- Rapid understanding
- Rapid response
- Rapid, targeted, and effective action

Read the full article on her blog.

Luciana Paulise:

Companies nowadays are no longer focusing on standardizing and ensuring quality. Quality is no longer value-added, is required. Lean and six sigma implementations are falling short, not because of quality issues, but because employees are not engaged enough to change. Unhappy employees equal unhappy customers. Now what, is agile the new lean?

Lean and six sigma process improvement approaches started in the auto industry and manufacturing in the ‘50s, and were successfully applied to other industries. Nevertheless, the software industry that grew significantly during the ‘90s realized that these quality practices were not fast enough. They needed to iterate faster to innovate faster. Being the customer favorite became a survival need, and they couldn’t do it without the ideas of their employees. Millennials in their workplace started asking for different ways of working. That’s how a group of IT experts developed the Agile Thinking Manifesto in 2001. They applied lean principles and tools to reduce waste and combined them with other idea generation tools and team enablers to bring innovation to the workplace more easily.

While lean provides a set of methods like 5S, kanban, just in time, agile is a cultural mindset, a way of thinking about how an organization should work. As Stephen says in his book The Era of Agile “in any particular organization, the practices that emerge will be the result of an interaction between the agile mindset and the specific organizational context”, which may include lean practices. So it is not “either agile or lean”, you can be both. For example, when I implement 5S, I always include in the training an introduction to an agile “we culture” mindset, so that team members can understand the true purpose behind the implementation.

Read the full article on her blog:

 

 

Apply Design Thinking to Quality Practices

 

More and more organizations are using design thinking to assess business concerns, discover creative solutions, and to establish market opportunities. As this strategy gains more traction ASQ asks:

How can design thinking be integrated with, and applied to quality practices?   

 

Prem Ranganath: The Art of Quality

Design Thinking is an opportunity to humanize quality and continuous improvement

Background: Design Thinking is a collection of methods and mindset that evolved at Stanford University and has now entered the mainstream in almost every industry. While the design thinking stages and methods might appear to be a framework, the essence of design thinking is the focus on ‘empathy’ and ‘experimentation’ to design innovative, meaningful and people focused solutions.

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

-Tim Brown, CEO OF IDEO

Design Thinking for Quality Practitioners:

There is no dearth of frameworks, toolkits and methodologies for quality management and continuous improvement. For example, a methodology like DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) provides a structured set of methods for continuous improvement along with a set of problem-solving tools and techniques for each stage in the methodology. DMAIC provides an opportunity to assess the current state using quantitative methods and prioritize problems/ opportunities for which solutions have to be implemented.

Metrics to qualify the current state and for measuring effectiveness of the solutions implemented are typically tagged to business objectives which ensures that employees understand the alignment between improvement initiatives and the potential impact of outcomes on business objectives.

If we use the Visual-01 (below) from IDEO as a reference, traditionally quality and continuous improvement initiatives are largely driven by viability and feasibility considerations. Integrating design thinking with improvement initiatives brings the ‘human’ element into focus, by driving conversation on ‘desirability’ of the solutions being proposed for implementation.

Visual-01: Dimensions of Design Thinking (source: IDEO)

Innovation Dimensions

When desirability is considered alongside viability and feasibility on quality and continuous improvement projects, it significantly improves change management and adoption. This approach also significantly increases the odds of institutionalizing and sustaining changes and ensures the effectiveness of the changes. Use of empathy as a facet to characterize current state brings more focus on the users (internal or external customers). Applying empathy alongside prototyping to evaluate alternate solution options for the future state improves engagement from the user community and will have a positive impact on the pace and extent of adoption. An informed and engaged user is more likely to be a champion for the solutions being implemented. The combination of traditional metrics and qualitative data supporting the desirability dimension can provide a new perspective for prioritizing and driving improvements.

Visual-02: Integrating Design Thinking with DMAIC

Integrating Design Thinking with DMAICVisual-02 shows the integration of a Design Thinking flow represented by the steps Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test with the DMAIC approach for continuous improvement. Integration of design thinking methods to adopt a humanized approach to characterizing (challenges and opportunities) current state. On similar lines, engaging internal and external customers to experiment and improve in a culture of play can lead to solutions that are desired by the user community and enable the quality practitioners ability to sustain and scale the improvements.

I have used the design thinking approach and methods on large transformation initiatives and during Kaizen events and I have seen significant impact on participants’ enthusiasm and engagement. The ability to empathize and experiment puts a human face to quality and process improvements and I would highly recommend design thinking to quality practitioners. I look forward to hearing from my peers on their experience with design thinking.

 

Robert Mitchell: Quality Matters 

Use Design Thinking to Innovate Your Quality Improvement Journey

Design Thinking is a strategy-making process that focuses on customer behaviors rather than opinion (aka tribal knowledge) and market research.

There is a lot of press lately about Design Thinking concepts, applications and examples in the development of new products and opening new markets. Design Thinking was popularized by David M. Kelley and Tim Brown of IDEO and Roger Martin of the Rotman School. A very good, short video on the topic was recently published by the Harvard Business Review blog . For a more detailed explanation please read the paper, “Design for Action” written by Brown and Martin.

Design Thinking process:

Design Thinking Process
From a paper recently published by Creativity At Work, “Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. A design mindset is not problem-focused, it’s solution focused and action oriented towards creating a preferred future. Design Thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be—and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the customer)”.

So how might Design Thinking be applied to your Quality improvement frameworks and roadmaps? The three major stages of Design Thinking are:

  1. Observe customer behavior; define unarticulated needs
  2. Ideate, Prototype, experiment and test
  3. Bring the new concept to life; open new markets

What differentiates Design Thinking from traditional Voice of Customer collection approaches is the emphasis placed on observation of behaviors rather than relying on customers’ input to satisfaction surveys. Survey responses tend to validate Expected Quality and rarely reveal Exciting Quality opportunities (see “Kano Model”). In this way, Design Thinking is similar to Focus Panels and “Be the Customer” methods to better understand unarticulated customer needs. It is at this stage of Design Thinking that the Quality practitioner has the unique opportunity to innovate through the introduction and incorporation of Journey Mapping to document customer experiences throughout the value chain of the producer-customer relationship, from product awareness to purchase and after-sale touchpoints.

An example of customer journey map:

Customer Journey Layers

The stages in Design Thinking around Ideation and Prototyping should look very similar to your existing Product Development and Commercialization processes. Many such approaches use a stage-gate model to prototype, test, and refine product design to evaluate customer acceptance and verify production cost estimates. Quality’s role in this stage should be to coach and consult in the proper use of experimental design to minimize experimentation costs and identify potentially important interactions of inputs and process variables to optimize performance of customer needs.

Another unique opportunity in the Design Thinking process for the Quality professional is in the final stage of bringing the new concept to life. With the help of social media the properly trained Quality professional can analyze customer / consumer feedback to validate areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, focusing on opportunities to build loyalty and engagement.

One can debate whether Design Thinking is really all that new or novel an approach to the value creation process. Design Thinking reinforces the power of understanding customer behaviors and unarticulated needs to deliver Exciting, innovative new product and service offerings for improved customer satisfaction and engagement… and potentially opening whole new markets. Per Linda Naiman (Creativity at Work), “Design Thinking minimizes the uncertainty and risk of innovation by engaging customers or users through a series of prototypes to learn, test and refine concepts”. The Quality professional might also consider how Design Thinking and Journey Mapping can help him/her to innovate their professional services portfolio for increased customer satisfaction in teaching, coaching and consulting outcomes.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it” – Peter Drucker

 

Luciana Paulise: Biztorming

What is Design thinking

Design thinking is a systematic and collaborative creative problem solving approach focusing on customer needs, getting information by direct observation, and testing it in a disciplined way. Similar to the Lean startup approach, the key is to fail fast and fail often. Even Toyota production system promotes investigating as many alternatives as possible, to find the very best solution, and always urge to propose ideas and fail as fast as possible.

The three main stages

1) Invent the future: With design thinking you should imagine what could be, in the ideal world, with limitless boundaries. You need to think what your customer may want but don’t know. The way to do that is by “Camping out” with your customers, like Home depot does. They talk to customers, ask how their experience was, ask questions like “did you find what you expected, what about the price, was it easy to find?” Sometimes a customer just want something fast, meaning buying a product in your website in just three clicks. That is what you need to discover through observation, what is “unstated”. Customer know they want to Get from a to b, but don’t know how. You need to find out the best way by immersing in their lives, observing and asking questions.

Ideas for product changes may be related to new products, pricing or new store displays.

2) Test ideas. You can do Mindmapping to write down ideas after observation, and then test those ideas. Do first individually, and then test it with your team mates or even with your customers. Remember, don’t judge, simply think and write down.

Once you have your ideas mapped, you need to conduct experiments to test the ideas in the real world. You can also test new processes that maybe faster, easier or

Use cheap materials, or partial solutions or Rapid prototyping tools. It does’t have to look perfect at first. The idea is to go fast, to be able to adjust fast.

3) Bring the new product to life. Identify resources and activities to implement the new ideas. Plan how to produce, distribute and sell the product or how to change the process.

Some Case studies

Design thinking can be used in any type of industry. A health provider for example used it to re-engineer nursing-staff shift changes. Close observation of actual shift changes, combined with brainstorming and rapid prototyping, produced new procedures that radically streamlined information exchange between shifts. The result was more time for nursing, better-informed patient care, and a happier nursing staff.

The Innova School System, for example, with 23 schools thus far, is applying design thinking across its platform, from how the classrooms are built to the curriculum. and the UK’s Design Policy Unit  as described in Tim Browns’s first article on Design Thinking for HBR.

Samsung Electronics manufactured inexpensive, imitative electronics for other companies. Its engineers built products to meet prescribed price and performance requirements. In a company that emphasized efficiency and engineering rigor, the designers had little status or influence. Then, in 1996, Lee Kun-Hee, the chairman of Samsung Group, frustrated by the company’s lack of innovation decided that in order to become a top brand, Samsung needed expertise in design, and set out to create a design-focused culture that would support world-class innovation. It took a long way until getting everyone in the company on-board, but they finally made it. Now Samsung innovation process begins with research conducted by multidisciplinary teams of designers, engineers, marketers, ethnographers, musicians, and writers who search for users’ unmet needs and identify cultural, technological, and economic trends. Design thinking for them means three major things: empathy, visualization, and experimentation in the marketplace.

Tech companies are using quality tools to organize their innovation cycles, likewise automotive, manufacturing, or even consulting industries more focused on standardization should start using quality together with design thinking so as to get a disciplined empathetic approach to customer requirements.

Are you ready?

January Roundup: Quality Inspirations

Do you have a quality role model or inspiration? This was the topic for ASQ’s blogging group, the Influential Voices, in February.  A quality role model could be anyone from a guru to a mentor to a person who is not “in quality” at all, but still embodies quality principles. Here are the main inspirations for ASQ’s Influential Voices:

Family: John Hunter was deeply inspired by his father, a statistician, as well as statistician George P.E. Box. Jimena Calfa writes about being inspired by and learning about quality from her kids. Luciana Paulise remembers the quality lessons she learned from her mother.

Professional mentors: Manu Vora remembers various mentors and thought leaders he encountered during his career.  Lotto Lai blogs about first research supervisor.  Bob Mitchell found inspiration from leaders at 3M. Chad Walters is inspired by fellow lean blogger and onetime ASQ Influential Voice Mark Graban, while Nicole Radziwill is inspired by a psychologist and an activist. Aimee Siegler finds quality inspiration in both her professional and personal life. Rajan Thiyagarajan learned four lessons in quality from his inspiration, a professor.

Icons and beyond: Jennifer Stepniowski is inspired by Steve Jobs.  Edwin Garro writes about quality lessons learned from a famous pediatric surgeon. Sunil Kaushik blogs about finding quality inspiration in an anonymous online forum and TED talk.  And Pam Schodt wrote the intriguingly titled post 5 Keys to Quality Problem Solving I learned in a Pizza Delivery Store.

December Roundup: What Does Ambition Look Like in Quality?

The word “ambition” can be a loaded one. To some, ambition means striving above and beyond for excellence. To others, ambition can mean overstepping defined goals or boundaries. In December, ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers talked about what ambition means to quality.

Not surprisingly, this became a somewhat contentious topic among the group. Does quality need more ambition, or is ambition the wrong goal for the field? Which side do you take?

Pursuing ambition: Pam Schodt writes about how to encourage the quality message at work. Quality thinking is not just about ambition–it could be the key to putting all aspects of a business together, says Luciana Paulise. Babette Ten Haken encourages us to have an ambitious conversation about quality. Rajan Thiyagarajan talks of importance of collaboration when pursuing quality ambitions. John Priebe writes that ambition means solving problems.

Lotto Lai writes about what ambition means to quality organizations in Asia. Tim McMahon says that an organization’s executives must have high ambitions for quality before we an ask for ambition in others.

And Edwin Garro looks to the famous Latin American comic strip “Mafalda” for a lesson in quality and ambition.

Quality lacks ambition: Sunil Kaushik argues that quality isn’t ambitious beyond the scope of a particular project. Manu Vora agrees, listing ways that quality can improveQuality on the whole is not ambitious enough, and that’s fine, argues Anshuman Tiwari.

What do we mean by ambition? Michael Noble reflects on the definition of quality put forth in Robert Pirsig’s cult classic novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Dan Zrymiak has an epiphany of value, purpose, and function in terms of quality. John Hunter looks to Deming to define and set goals for ambition. Nicole Radziwill responds by discussing Deming’s 14 points in a different context.

To Bob Mitchell, ambition means that “we must increase our agility, become ‘comfortable being uncomfortable,’ and think globally in today’s flattened world.” To Jennifer Stepniowski, ambition in quality is more of a matter of marketing quality, a challenge that she addresses in her post.

Scott Rutherford finds the original question misplaced, arguing that quality is expectation, not ambition.  And Jimena Calfa writes that ambition in quality must be a passion for quality on the part of the individual.